HARD-HATTED WOMEN: Stories of Struggle and Success in the Trades by Molly--Ed. Martin

HARD-HATTED WOMEN: Stories of Struggle and Success in the Trades

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In this uplifting and consistently interesting feminist oral history, 26 gutsy and articulate women tell of breaking into and working in trades such as ironworker, merchant sailor, firefighter, plumber, and machinist. Editor Martin (an electrician; a founder of Tradeswomen, Inc.--a national organization for women in the trades--and editor of their quarterly magazine) chose informants who represent a wide range of age, race, ethnicity; some are married with children, some single mothers; some lesbian, some heterosexual. Significantly, many are also published writers and poets, able to tell their own stories with verve and skill. Common themes include high job satisfaction, and the difference between the excellent salaries earned in the trades compared to pay for traditionally female jobs--one woman went from $3.45/hour at a day-care center to $30/hour as a sprinkler fitter. Most of the women knew nothing at first about their trades; they put in long hours and often worked without pay to get started. Women complain of lack of intelligent conversation, sexual harassment, and physical threats from resentful men. The book is full of tips on how to break in, and organizations that can help; information on which jobs require the least brawn, and when it's advisable to work out at a gym prior to seeking employment. All the accounts are fascinating, but it's hard to forget the construction-site electrician who didn't tell her co-workers that she was in her sixth month of pregnancy: ""I felt like I carried a delicious secret: lying on a plank across an open airshaft on the roof of a building, tying in a fan motor, talking to the baby-in-utero."" A valuable resource for women working in (or thinking of entering) the trades, and not since Studs Terkel's Working has gritty, real, day-to-day life on the job come across so vividly in print.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1988
Publisher: Seal Press